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California’s population shrank for the second year in a row

Movers pack items in Redwood City. | Aric Crabb/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Californians have become famous for fleeing their state. 

The Golden State led the nation in resident departures between July 2021 and July 2022, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows. Continuing a pandemic-era trend, a staggering 343,000 more people left California than moved here during that time period.

That migration out caused California’s population to shrink more than almost any state in the U.S. Only New York saw a larger decline. Data from U-Haul adds additional context to that population loss: In California, the moving company counted more trucks moving out than in any other state, with many movers decamping for Texas and Florida.

Even before the pandemic, California had more residents moving out than in: Between 2010 and 2019, census data showed an average of around 100,000 more departures than arrivals. 

But thanks to large numbers of immigrants, California sustained consistent growth during that time period. Florida was the only state that received more immigrants during that decade.

The pandemic exodus quadrupled California’s existing out-migration patterns. Meanwhile, Trump-era immigration policies combined with Covid restrictions slammed the brakes on immigration, erasing the previous population gains the state saw each year.

California’s population has diminished each year since the pandemic began, although the new census data indicates that the rate of decline is slowing. While the state’s domestic migration to other states remains high, it’s gone down since its peak from 2020 into 2021. Meanwhile, international immigration rates in the state have climbed back to pre-Covid figures.

Nationally, the U.S. population climbed nearly 1.3 million from July 2021 through July 2022, the census data shows. That 0.4% growth was driven by the rebound in international migration combined with the nation’s largest year-over-year increase in total births since 2007, said Kristie Wilder, a demographer with the Census Bureau, in a statement.

Noah Baustin can be reached at